It’s no surprise that Pepper Rabbit has charmed the socks off indie-pop fans this year — not if you’re heard the L.A. duo’s debut album “Beauregard,” and especially not if you’ve seen frontman Xander Singh’s instrument-juggling during his live shows.
What’s remarkable is that, after releasing two EPs in 2009 and “Beauregard” last month on Kanine Records, the prolific Singh and collaborator Luc Laurent are ready to dart to Seattle and make their next record. “We have the songs,” Singh says with palpable excitement, “and right after these tours we’re going to go up to Seattle and record it.”
||| Download: “Older Brother” (previously posted)
And, yes, the tours are not to be overlooked. After a hometown show tonight at the Echo, the band joins Freelance Whales for a couple of dates, gets eight shows supporting Passion Pit and two more with Ra Ra Riot. While a boon to Pepper Rabbit’s profile, the Passion Pit tour seems an odd pairing — a ukulele-toting chamber-pop band opening for dance-happy synth-poppers. But, Singh says, “it’s not as weird as people think. Besides I’m good friends with those guys from back in Boston.”
Singh’s Boston days must seem long ago. After high school he passed on attending college, moved to Los Angeles and began writing songs in a small Hollywood apartment. “I never really wanted to be a solo artist, but I never met anybody I was comfortable sharing my songs with until I met Luc,” he says. “Beauregard” took shape with the help of a producer friend in New Orleans, and the city informed some of the music on the album as well.
With its labyrinthine arrangements and potpourri of instrumentation — guitar, banjo, ukulele, horns, clarinet, keys, drums — the albums has the feel of a songwriter who can’t wait to tell a story and won’t settle for boring way to tell it. “The songs usually just start from little melody ideas and just expand forward and backward from there,” Singh says. “There’s definitely a lot of ‘just try everything.’ I’ve always been drawn to dense arrangements and instrumentation, and sometimes the songs get huge.”
It can get that way during Pepper Rabbit’s live show too, thanks to some looping effects Singh uses. “I would love to have a 10-piece band, but then again I can’t imagine keeping track of nine other people,” he says. “But one of the biggest compliments we get is, that for a three-piece (Singh and Laurent are joined by a bassist onstage), we sound big.”
Singh acknowledges a love for studio work, so he’s looking forward to crafting the sophomore album. “I like a lot of pop music from the ’70s and ’80s, when bands gave you so much more music to dive into,” he says. “Most of the bands I love have big catalogs.”
Did that last sentence sound like a mission statement? You bet.
||| Live: Pepper Rabbit (with Hands, Square on Square and the Silent Comedy) performs tonight at the Echo. Pepper Rabbit opens for Passion Pit on Dec. 7 at the Palladium. Pepper Rabbit also plays an in-store tonight at Origami Vinyl.
||| Previously: Here.